Florida’s fracking opponents gained a small window of time to hold off controversial oil and natural gas drilling when sparring lawmakers walked out on the job this week. “What I am hearing is that we’ll see these bills again next year, not before,” a clean energy advocate in Tallahassee said.
Dozens of bills were casualties Tuesday after the House abruptly adjourned. A controversial measure that regulates fracking and another that allows drillers to conceal their methods from public records may need to go back to the drawing board, according to David Cullen, a Sierra Club Florida lobbyist.“The four bills are probably dead due to the House shutdown,” Cullen said in an email. “I hesitate to issue a ‘death certificate’ because in the unlikely event the House returns and reconvenes before midnight [Friday], the two chambers could [agree] to extend the session up to 20 days.”
In that case, Cullen said, “everything would be back in play, not just fracking.”
The scenarios for fracking in an extended session are many, Cullen said. One is "the bill could be adopted [in the Senate] as originally sent by the House, in which case it would be an Act and eligible for the Governor's signature. It's a safe bet he won't veto it."
South Florida produces modest amounts of oil and gas in Collier, Lee, Hendry, and Miami-Dade counties and there are deposits in northwest Santa Rosa and Escambia. The state ranks 23rd in the U.S. with 1.9 million barrels annually and is 29th in natural gas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
A secretive fracking event near the Everglades in 2013 was shut down quickly after a public outcry and is among few known fracking efforts in Florida.
At the time, Eric Draper, head of Audubon Florida, declared, “Fracking is dead in Florida.”
Advocates for fracking, such as the Florida Petroleum Council, argue that sideways hydraulic drilling technology leads to jobs, revenue for government, and less reliance on foreign energy. More than a million wells in the U.S. are a result of fracking.
“There's an awful lot of [legislative] ground to cover … just to get a budget out on time. Taking up a controversial subject like fracking would be challenging,” Cullen said. “Next year’s session starts two months early [Jan. 12], so it's not that long for the proponents to have to wait.”
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